Northampton Wanderers back-to-back A League champions
Paddy Ryan’s second-half score gave Northampton Wanderers another A League title as they fought back to beat Exeter Braves at Franklin’s Gardens.
The scores were level at half time after Moray Low and Tom Lawday went over for Braves, while Lewis Ludlam scored Wandies’ only try and James Grayson knocked three penalties over.
Exeter then took the lead in the second half through Matt Kvesic, but the hosts got two more through Jamal Ford-Robinson and Paddy Ryan to seal victory.
Wandies took an early lead through a Grayson penalty just two minutes in as Braves were caught holding on to the ball on the floor.
Braves responded by surging forward through Campagnaro and almost got the first try of the match but skipper James Freeman was held up on the line.
The visitors were on the scoreboard only minutes later though, as Wanderers lost their line out and Braves increased the pressure, leading to Low bundling over from close range and Sam Morley converting.
They came agonisingly close again 10 minutes later, with Sean Lonsdale this time being held up by Wandies on the line.
The hosts turned defence into attack, slowly making their way towards Braves’ line before a gap was found down the left and Ludlam was on hand to dot down in the corner.
Braves hit back instantly, as Lawday took a splitting line straight down the middle of the pitch and fended Tom Collins to run in under the posts.
Grayson slotted another long-range penalty to keep the gap at three points after half an hour, then added a third on the stroke of half time to level the scores going into the break.
Braves struck first in the second period, with Kvesic muscling over after a sustained period of pressure, and Morley again adding the extras.
But once more the home side responded as Ford-Robinson scored in a similar fashion from a few metres out, with Grayson also converting to restore parity.
The back and forth continued as Ryan then put Wandies in the lead with a pick and go close to the Braves line after a driving maul from a line out.
With less than 10 minutes to go Grayson put daylight between the two sides with his fourth penalty of the day after James Short was caught for holding on after being tackled.
It looked as though Braves were going to get one back at the death with countless pick and goes on five metres out but the Wandies defence held strong and they turned the ball over, kicked it out and became successive A League champions.
Northampton Wanderers: Collins, Tuitavake, Dingwall, Stephenson (c), Stephenson, Pisi, Grayson, Mitchell, van Wyk, Clare, Ford-Robinson, Onojaife, Moon, Ludlam, Ryan, Nutley
Replacements: Fish (for Clare ’59), Beesley (for van Wyk ’75), Painter (for Ford-Robinson ’54), Trinder, Allman (for Nutley ’69), Emery, Strachan, Elliott
Tries: Ludlam, Ford-Robinson, Ryan
Cons: Grayson 2
Pens: Grayson 4
Exeter Braves: Bodilly, O’Flaherty, Campagnaro, Hendrickson, Short, Morley, Chudley, Keast, Malton, Low, Salmon, Lonsdale, Freeman, Kvesic, Lawday
Replacements: Innard (for Malton ’54), Kenny (for Keast ’69), Southworth, Van Der Sluys (for Lonsdale ’69), Caulfield (for Salmon ’75), Snow, Skinner (for Morley ‘59), Strong (for Hendrickson ’75)
Tries: Low, Lawday, Kvesic
Cons: Morley 3
Referee: Jack Makepeace